BOAT REVIEW Caribbean 420 Express Night Hawk II

January 2021 Launch Reviews
Words by John Eichelsheim, photography and video by Roger Mills.
OUR RATING
4 STARS
Performance
Economy
Handling
Value
Build Quality
Specification
MODEL DETAILS
MODEL Caribbean 420 Express
DESIGNER Caribbean Boats
BUILDER International Marine
PRICE AS TESTED $1114,000
SPECIFICATIONS
LOA 13.16M
BEAM 4.30M
DRAFT 1.3M
DISPLACEMENT 11200kg
ENGINE 2 x Cummins QSC 500hp
FUEL CAPACITY 2000L
WATER CAPACITY 650L
Maximum Speed 30 knots
Cruise Speed 20-24 knots
ACCOMMODATION 6/7 in two cabins, plus saloon
HIGHLIGHTS
  • Capable hull provides safe, comfortable ride
  • Able to maintain a decent cruise speed in most conditions
  • Spacious cockpit
OBSERVATIONS
  • Sleek styling and some nice detailing
  • Upgraded electronics with emphasis on sportfishing
  • First Caribbean with Cummins LCD displays

Melbourne’s International Marine has built around 60,000 boats in 60 years. Founded in 1958 by the Spooner family, the company’s produced many different power and sail boats, but now exclusively manufactures its own Caribbean range of power boats.


Caribbean boats carry a large dose of Bertram DNA, since International Marine produced Bertram motor yachts for many years before developing the Caribbean range.
This Bertram lineage is evident in the classic lines of the Caribbean 420 Express, the sedan version of the popular Caribbean 40 Flybridge (Boating NZ, August 2012). To my eye the 420 Express looks sleeker and more stylish and Caribbean has added some nice detailing too, like improved, neoprene-backed stainless-steel beltings.

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The 420 Express Night Hawk II is Scott White’s demonstration vessel, the first brand-new one in New Zealand. Scott holds the New Zealand agency for Caribbean boats. Boating New Zealand readers may remember that Scott’s demonstrators are always called Night Hawk, in memory of his late father’s boats of the same name. This is perhaps the third or fourth Caribbean I have reviewed called Night Hawk.
As a demonstrator, Night Hawk II has lots of factory options, plus quite a few extras Scott added here in New Zealand. The boat lives in Whangamata, which is where Boating NZ travelled to for this story.
Boats around 13m are popular in New Zealand. They’re big enough to accommodate the family or friends for a few days but compact enough for a couple to easily handle by themselves. They also fit a 14m marina berth.
With the standard swim platform, the 420 Express measures exactly 14m, but Night Hawk II has the optional extended swim platform – shortening the bowsprit would be required to use a 14m berth, an easy modification.


The teak-covered platform is the obvious place for a bit of fishing. A wide stainless-steel railing supports the bait table and BBQ stored under the cockpit sole. Teak is an option for the cockpit as well, but this boat has removable carpets covering the moulded GRP sole. Underwater lights are fitted, a saltwater wash-down is conveniently located to keep the cockpit clean and there’s a pull-out freshwater cockpit shower just inside the transom door.
Although not set up primarily for game fishing, Night Hawk II has everything you need to enjoy a bit of billfish trolling or live-baiting. There are plenty of rod holders set into the coamings and ample space for tag poles, gaffs and tail-ropes in the under-gunwale cockpit lockers. The live bait tank is a generous size and has been fitted with overflows for constant operation. It also has LED underwater lights.


There is plenty of freeboard and the cockpit gunwales, while not especially high, provide anglers good support at thigh level. Toe-room is good. Scott and his boys enjoy a bit of game fishing in the season, so Ocean Blue carbon fibre outriggers are fitted, along with a custom centre-rigger and stainless-steel rocket launchers to either side. The sedan top also supports the Simrad Halo radar array and Intellian TV aerial dome.
Because this vessel is shaft-driven, there’s underfloor cockpit storage for equipment – aft in the lazarette, and in a second locker forward of the fuel tanks. Night Hawk II carries 2,000 litres of diesel under the cockpit and 650 litres of water in the hull amidships.


The engine room is under the saloon sole, a hatch by the stairs forward giving access to the Onan 9.5kVA generator, Victron Centaur 3000W /120A inverter-charger, U-Tec refrigeration compressor, Vaccuflush toilet system, A/C system and hot water cylinder. Full access to the Cummins QSC 500hp engines is achieved by lifting the floor and climbing down a ladder.
There’s good crawl space access around the common-rail diesels and associated equipment. Apart from a generous 600A/h house bank, Night Hawk II has separate start batteries and a dedicated battery for the generator. Caribbean fits beefy two-inch shafts to the 420 Express and Scott has added a wireless Salt-away flush system for the engines and genset.


In Caribbean’s usual fashion, there’s a vast cockpit freezer across the saloon bulkhead, along with a sink and a set of drawers. An awning-type saloon window is a new feature that better connects inside with outside, along with the optional glass and aluminium door – a departure from the usual sliding model. The sedan roof overhangs the cockpit slightly, extended by a folding canvas awning with clear side screens to provide shelter for the aft helm position and cockpit bulkhead seat opposite.


Since this is a sedan-style launch, Scott has opted for cockpit controls, including for the bow thruster. He’s also fitted a fully functional Simrad NSS7 evo3 MFD to the bulkhead, within easy reach and viewable from anywhere in the cockpit. Backing the boat into its berth is easiest from the cockpit and the control station provides good sight-lines towards the bow through the open saloon window.
International Marine has steadily improved the presentation of Caribbean boats over the years and this is evident in the 420’s interior, which nicely balances traditional and modern styling. Highly polished teak characterises the saloon, including the saloon table, panelling, pelmets, ceiling light strips and all the cabinetry. It’s offset by grey carpet, light-grey leather upholstery and cream-coloured vinyl headlining.


Plenty of glass ensures a light, bright saloon during the day and dimmable LED ceiling lights take over at night. Electric blinds hidden behind the pelmets are a nice touch.
The saloon isn’t overly large – this is a 13m boat after all, with a big cockpit – but there’s space to seat six on the wrap-around settee against the port bulkhead and three or four on the side settee opposite. It converts into bunks for two/three. The TV is on a bracket in the aft corner of the saloon to starboard and sounds are taken care of by a Fusion audio system.
Although this is a galley-forward layout, the galley is only a single step down, so you are never isolated from the boat’s social areas and the cook can still see out the windows. The C-shaped galley features composite work surfaces, a Fisher & Paykel induction cooktop, Panasonic inverter oven/microwave, an under-bench fridge and an in-bench freezer – Night Hawk II is well-endowed with refrigeration.


Below decks are two cabins and a shared bathroom. The master cabin in the bow has an island double berth, two good-sized hanging lockers and semi-ensuite access to the bathroom. There’s an overhead hatch for light and air, with insect and privacy screens, but no windows.
The guest cabin on the port side has two extra-wide bunk berths with drawers under the bottom bunk and a small storage locker. It too has an overhead hatch, but also lacks windows, relying on LED lighting.
The bathroom is reasonably spacious, sensibly laid out and designed for easy cleaning. It has a separate shower stall and a Vaccuflush toilet system.


The 420’s is a well-proven hull with bluewater pedigree. Caribbeans provide a safe, comfortable ride in most conditions and the 420 Express doesn’t disappoint in this regard. Top speed is a respectable 30-plus knots, but the marque’s strength is the ability to maintain a decent cruising speed even when sea conditions deteriorate. Night Hawk II likes to cruise somewhere between 21 and 25 knots, speeds it can comfortably maintain in most conditions. For gamefishers, trolling speed is 7.5 knots/1700rpm with a total fuel burn of 9lph.


The two-tier helm console is simple with leather upholstery adding a touch of luxury. Scott pushed the boat out with Night Hawk II’s electronics package (see sidebar), including a pair of Simrad 12-inch MFDs, and the vessel is equipped with Cummins LCD displays (also present in the engine room), a first for International Marine.
The bow thruster is by Sidepower (stern thruster optional), three wiper-washers keep the windscreens clear, a hard-wired Muir capstan does anchor lifting duty and the main switchboard is in a locker under the dash. Sliding side windows provide ventilation.


The leather-clad Navigator helm seat is a beauty, offering support, comfort and good vision ahead. Twin helm seats are an option.
Without too much sea to contend with, we ran over the Whangamata bar and set the bows northwards at 27.5 knots, the engines spinning at their maximum continuous rating of 2,700rpm. With 1,000 horsepower on tap, Night Hawk II is quick to plane, even three-quarters full of fuel and water. Insta-trim trim tabs take care of the hull attitude.
Designed to perform well on every angle of attack, the variable deadrise hull is stable at rest but also provides a soft ride. Night Hawk II handles very nicely and is quiet, too, inside and out, thanks to plenty of engine room sound deadening and optional underwater exhausts.

Upgraded Electronics

The relationship between Scott White/Caribbean Boats NZ and Advance Trident Ltd (ATL) goes back at least 15 years. ATL supplied electronics packages for every Caribbean boat Scott has ever imported, as well as for his personal vessels.
On Night Hawk II the main MFDs are Simrad NSS12 evo3 12-inch touchscreen units. The NAC-3 autopilot, controlled primarily through the MFD, also has wireless remote control.
Scott chose a seven-inch Simrad NSS7 evo3 cockpit display for fishing and upgraded the sounding capability with the very capable B275LHW transducer and Simrad’s S5100 sounder module. This combination delivers superb picture quality and target definition good enough to clearly identify swordfish and marlin in deep water. Shallow water performance is also great.


Night Hawk II is fitted with Simrad Halo 24 48nm radar, a robust and reliable Simrad RS40 VHF radio and an Intellian i2 satellite dish for Freeview and Sky TV.
ATL’s package provides a complete system for family cruising, plus a more focused approach to bottom and game fishing. Installation and commissioning was by Pro Marine Electrical and Hutcheson Boat Builders of Tauranga.
The White family has represented Caribbean Boats in New Zealand for 10 years and the 420 Express is an exciting new model for New Zealand, says Scott.

For more details contact Scott: scott@caribbeanboats.co.nz/>

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